Adjustments to Extended Study Programs

Due to smaller numbers in students and faculty, departments such as the Russian and Eurasian Studies (REST) Program are sometimes unable to lead off-campus study groups, where students live abroad with peers and receive instruction and guidance from a Colgate faculty member directing the program.

Off-campus study is described by the Colgate website as a rich combination of cultural experience and academic work in areas ranging from science to religion, economics to language and literature to the arts. Program options for students include Colgate study groups led by a Colgate faculty member, approved programs and extended studies.

According to Director and Associate Professor of REST Jessica Graybill, the REST and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MIST) programs have recently implemented similar strategies in which they focus on extended studies as a solution to the problems that study groups can pose. Extended study

courses allow students to expand on their learning and grow their global perspectives by spending three to five weeks with a course professor and classmates on location follow- ing a relevant semester-long class. Extended studies came to Colgate about ten years ago. In 2014, Graybill and Associate Professor of REST, Ian Helfant, piloted one to Russia and Kazakhstan.

“Extended studies have always been interdisciplinary,” Graybill said. “We are trying to make it dynamic in that sense so people beyond just REST majors can get involved and think about the region.”

For example, the Spring 2018 “Oil and Water” extended study to Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan was a collaboration between the REST, geography and history departments. This course, which attracted a wide variety of students from different disciplines, will be offered again in Spring 2020.

Graybill and Assistant Professor of Geography Michael Loranty are now planning to lead a new extended study in Siberia called “Environmental and Social Change in the Siberian Arctic” for Fall 2019.

Graybill emphasized the significance of this trip.

“[Professor Loranty] is interested in arctic ecology. As a geographer and Russianist, I’ve done arctic social science, and he’s done arctic physical science. So we hope that this will [create] a nice synergy, to be able to talk about all sorts of issues, but especially those wrapped around climate change,” Graybill said. “We’re both really committed to student learning.”

Graybill explained that students will visit Plasticine Park and work with lead scientists Sergey and Nikita Zimov, who are pioneering the idea of bringing back wooly mammoths to stop the permafrost from melting, which is a huge climate change con- cern. Plans for the extended study include going to a natural riverside out- cropping to study mammoth bones and visiting a Gulag site.

“Professor Loranty and I have been talking about this for three to four years. It seems like everything came together perfectly,” Graybill said. “This study site, Chersky, is Professor Loranty’s long-term research site, so that’s huge.”

Other departments also face similar challenges when trying to lead the typical Colgate off-campus study groups.

Senior Jenny Lundt described her study abroad experience as a MIST and Peace and Conflict Studies (PCON) double concentrator. Lundt explained that opportunities for MIST majors include approved programs in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. Extended study courses that have been offered in the past include “Living Egypt,” “The Land of Israel” and “The Islamic Heritage of Turkey.” Despite these offerings, these programs can face challenges with getting Colgate’s approval due to volatility in the region.

“I was supposed to go to Egypt abroad, but the Colgate Off-Campus Study office revoked my approval due to the rising security threats in Egypt. This led me to change my concentration to be PCON and MIST,” Lundt said.

Instead, Lundt went to Nepal her junior year for a “Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples” program through the School for International Train- ing (SIT), where she was stationed in the capital, Katmandu. This approved program contributed to her PCON concentration.

“It was a super fascinating experience that certainly helped change my outlook on the world,” Lundt said. “During the semester, I also got to travel to a different Himalayan district for an entire month by myself to write a 40-page research project that ended up being the capstone of my study abroad experience. I wrote about the radio and its connection to politics in different areas of Nepal.”

Lundt also participated in the 2018 “Oil and Water” extended study for her MIST concentration, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of these new extended study options.

Graybill affirmed the significance of making off-campus experiences accessible to all students.

“Nothing is more important than seeing the world as a student,” Graybill said.

Graybill said that a REST study group is in the works for 2021.

“I think this is really exciting,” Graybill said. “We hope that Russian language students will go, but also students interested in geopolitics and the environment.”

Contact Celine Turkyilmaz at [email protected]